This article carries more details on the bed bug war going on in the Montana Rescue Mission men’s shelter than the one blogged last week. It is a harrowing reminder of how hard it is to get rid of bed bugs under certain circumstances.
More than a year ago, the mission spent $5,500 replacing all 27 wooden bunk beds in the men’s shelter dormitory with steel bunks that give the bugs no openings to hole up in or to build nests. All the wooden beds at the mission’s Women’s and Family Shelter on First Avenue North were replaced at the same time, [shelter manager Tracy] Hansen said
Ecolab Pest Elimination Services has been coming at least once a month to do treatments at the shelter, and shelter workers also use a nontoxic powder to treat areas in which bedbugs are found. All the mattresses were replaced at one point, and sheets are now washed daily.
Blankets are also washed regularly, Hansen said, and soon they will be dried in a large commercial dryer, which will kill any bedbugs.
After initially making good progress against the bedbugs, the shelter saw another outbreak over the summer. As Drake explained, “We have so many people bringing in so many things on their persons.”
Hansen said the problem this summer and fall has been concentrated in the chapel, which handles overflow sleepers. Although the dormitory sleeps 54 people and 20 more men involved in change-of-life programs sleep in several common rooms, as many as 40 men a night will stretch out on mats on the floor of the chapel. People are asked not to bring in bags or their own blankets, but they still end up bringing in bedbugs in their clothes.
Over the summer, mission workers ripped out the baseboard all around the chapel, where they found several nests in decaying wood and plaster. Those areas were treated, but there are still occasional finds, Hansen said. Over the summer, he might find 10 to 15 live bugs a day. On Thursday, he said, he found two.
Replacing wooden beds with metal probably helps, though bed bugs can also infest metal beds; they can even harbor in the groove of a screw-head. And replacing bed frames does nothing, if mattresses are not properly encased (whether replaced or not). I would like to know if the mattresses are encased, which will help keep them from becoming reinfested.
Regular treatments are good, but most PCOs who know bed bugs seem to recommend treating more than once a month. Washing/drying sheets daily and washing or even just drying blankets (which should also be done daily under such circumstances) is a good idea.
The sad fact is that it is probably hard to do more than control bed bugs in a shelter situation. Even if guests do not bring in bags, as long as people are coming in wearing clothing, the potential for reinfestation is there.
One statement in the article really jumped out at me:
Barbara Schneeman, the communications and advocacy manager at the Yellowstone City-County Health Department, said the department hasn’t heard of any problems with bedbugs anywhere else in Billings. In a given year, she said, there might be one or two calls about bedbugs.
If a homeless shelter has bed bugs, a person brought them in, or they were brought in with a shipment. The former is more likely.
The person can have been an employee, visitor, or homeless guest.
If people are exposed to bed bugs in the shelter, they will also carry those bed bugs elsewhere.
Those people can be employees, visitors, or homeless guests.
Where those people go next, they may leave bed bugs: stores, cafes, government offices, laundromats, buses, trains, cars, schools, hospitals, PCO’s offices, employees’ and visitors’ and guests’ and their friends’ apartments and houses.
If a homeless shelter in Billings has bed bugs, there are problems with bed bugs in other places in Billings.
It’s a matter of time before people realize it.
I hope everyone in Billings with bed bugs will call the Yellowstone City-County Health Department and let them know. Public health officials will not recognize bed bugs as a problem unless you call them and tell them they are a problem. If they shrug it off, do not take it personally. If everyone calls, officials will have to take this seriously. Other health departments are beginning to.